NHL teams went through some major upheavals this offseason, led by the blockbuster trade of rugged winger Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers.
After losing Johnny Gaudreau for nothing in free agency, the Calgary Flames were pro-active about moving Tkachuk and got star forward Jonathan Huberdeau and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar as part of the return. After signing Stanley Cup winner Nazem Kadri later in the summer, the Flames might be in better shape than they were at the end of the season.
Goaltenders and coaches also changed teams. With that in mind, USA TODAY Sports tries to project point totals for all 32 NHL teams.
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Goalie Igor Shesterkin’s Vezina Trophy-caliber play and improved play from the youngsters will give the Rangers a division title. … Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour gets the most out of his squad. Expect a strong push when newcomer Max Pacioretty returns from injury in January. … The Penguins‘ Big Three of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are still together. That’s good enough for a playoff berth, but can they get to the second round? …The Capitals‘ goaltending got an upgrade, but injuries to Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson will hurt them. … Johnny Gaudreau should make everyone better on the Blue Jackets and put them in the playoff hunt. … Perhaps the Islanders missing the playoffs last season was a fluke, but they stayed mostly the same (outside of a coaching change) while the division got stronger. … If Jack Hughes stays healthy and Vitek Vanecek steadies the goaltending, the Devils will push for a playoff spot. … Coach John Tortorella will have the Flyers playing better, but the team still has issues.
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The Panthers acquired Tkachuk but lost Huberdeau, Weegar, Claude Giroux and Mason Marchment. They won’t win the Presidents Trophy again but have enough talent to win the division. … The Lightning‘s offseason departures weren’t as significant as last season, but they’ll miss Ondrej Palat. … The Maple Leafs have issues in net but have the offense to overcome that. … The Bruins will be without Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy and Taylor Hall early in the season, plus they changed coaches. A slow start could cost them a playoff spot. … Giroux and Alex DeBrincat will lead the Senators to a jump in the standings, but it might not be enough in a tough division, especially with goalie Cam Talbot missing five to seven weeks. …. Same with the Red Wings. Impressive offseason haul (Andrew Copp, David Perron, Ville Husso, Ben Chiarot) but too big a gap to overcome. … Defenseman Owen Power will challenge for rookie of the year, but the Sabres will miss the playoffs again. … Even though the Canadiens played better last season under coach Martin St. Louis, they’ll stay at the bottom of the division.
The defending champion Avalanche had big departures (Kadri, Darcy Kuemper, Andre Burakovsky), but they dealt with a lot of injuries last season and should be able to adapt. … The Predators added Nino Niederreiter and Ryan McDonagh to a team that had a Vezina finalist (Juuse Saros) and Norris finalist (Roman Josi) last season. … The Wild couldn’t afford to keep 85-point scorer Kevin Fiala. They’ll need more from other players. Rookie Marco Rossi could help. … I picked the Blues to miss the playoffs last season and they had one of their better seasons. I won’t do it again, though they’ll miss departed free agent Perron and goaltender Jordan Binnington needs to have a better regular season. … New Stars coach Peter DeBoer needs to get production from more lines than the top one. That top line will be together for the opener after Jason Robertson agreed to a four-year deal this week. … The Jets stripped Blake Wheeler of his captaincy. This has the look of a team taking a step back. … The Coyotes and stripped-down Blackhawks will be in a race to the bottom and the best lottery odds to draft Conor Bedard.
The Flames have a new look and coach of the year Darryl Sutter to make it all work. … The Oilers turned to goalie Jack Campbell to address a weakness from last season. He was a 2022 All-Star but struggled in January, February and March and was average in the playoffs. … Dustin Brown retired, but Fiala will boost the Kings offense. … The Golden Knights could return to the playoffs if they avoid last season’s rash of injuries. Goalie Robin Lehner’s season-ending hip surgery is troublesome, but Logan Thompson had better statistics and new coach Bruce Cassidy never missed the playoffs with the Bruins. … A full season of coach Bruce Boudreau will put the Canucks into the playoff hunt. … The Ducks have exciting young talent. Mason McTavish will be in the mix for the Calder Trophy. … The Kraken added 50 goals between Andre Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand, plus have dynamic youngsters Matty Beniers and Shane Wright. Goalie Philipp Grubauer needs a rebound season. … The Sharks‘ trade of Brent Burns shows they’re rebuilding.